India did perform well in the tournament. But, to be called a ‘World Champion’, the Indian fans had to wait a month longer.
The Indian team went down fighting in the 2019 Cricket World Cup, but the tri-colour found a place at the top of the podium at the BWF World Championships – for the first time, when PV Sindhu crushed Nozomi Okuhara in the final. The feat becomes more impressive when perspectives come into play. The 24-year-old Indian badminton star had a long list of big game defeats to endure in the opening half of 2019. Questions were being raised over her ability to withstand the mental pressure in semifinals and finals.
In the World Championships itself, Sindhu had been a silver-medalist for two years running. Yet, the Indian shuttler produced a magical performance to completely decimate her opponent – who defeated her two years ago – to register her name in history. It was a performance which exuded class, dominance, and sheer power, as she crushed Okuhara 21-7 21-7 in merely 35 minutes.
Many a time, a scoreline may not be an accurate representation of how the match was played out. The loser would usually be better than what the numbers suggested. As overwhelming as it could be, a 21-7 21-7 scoreline didn’t seem to do justice with how Sindhu performed in Basel on Sunday.
It was an outpour of anger and frustration in the way Sindhu knew best. It wasn’t only a game against the World No.5 for the Indian shuttler. It was her battle with demons which would usually come to haunt her at this stage. With each smash from the racquet, she dismissed them with utter disdain. Nozomi Okuhara was up against a player fighting her own fears. She didn’t have a chance.
"I felt really bad after the first World Championships final and last year I was angry, I was sad. I went through all my emotions, asking 'Sindhu, why can't you get this one match?' but today came and I told myself to play my game and not worry - and it worked out,” Sindhu said after the game.
After winning multiple medals in different events throughout her career, Sindhu had a dry 2019. In the prestigious All England Badminton Championships, she lost in the very first round. This was followed by further defeats in semifinals of India Open and Singapore Open, and quarterfinal of Malaysia Open. Her first final of the season came in Indonesia where she toppled Okuhara, but lost to Akane Yamaguchi. The monotonous phrase ‘settles for silver’ made a comeback once again.
In this context, the win in the World Championships will do a world of good for Sindhu as she prepares for Tokyo 2020. “Olympics is not so far but right now it is step-by-step for me. I know the Olympic qualification is going so I hope I do well, but right now I just want to enjoy it and don't want to think anything else,” said the World Champion.